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As we move past 2020 into the new year with recent news of vaccines and new lockdowns there have no doubt been mixed feelings! I wanted to write a wee post considering Happiness and how we can remind ourselves what can contribute to our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, as well as our children’s of course. It’s not an easy time so these are just some observations and suggestions, at the end of the day everyone is different, and you will all have strategies yourselves, but here are little thoughts around what the research points to!

Positive Relationships

Express your heartConnect. People who have one or more close friendships are happier. It doesn’t necessarily matter if we have a large network of relationships or not. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we cooperate in activities and share our personal feelings with a friend or relative, even just one or a few. So, fostering the relationships that we enjoy, even if it’s digitally, can make a huge difference to our Happiness.

Acts of Kindness

Cultivate kindness! People who volunteer or simply care for others on a consistent basis seem to be happier and less depressed. Although “caring” can involve volunteering as part of an organised group or club, it can also be something as simple as reaching out to a colleague or someone in your friendship group who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue. It can create a sense of community or closeness with others and model good behaviour for our little ones. Simply things like a touch on the shoulder (with those in our bubbles), sparkling eyes, a head dipped to the side showing you are actively listening or soft, caring tone to your voice helps the feeling of togetherness.

Exercise and Physical Wellbeing 

We are always told to keep moving and eat well. Definitely easier said than done! But regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. The Cochrane Review (the most influential medical review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark analysis of 23 studies on exercise and depression. One of the major conclusions was that exercise had a “large clinical impact” on depression. It doesn’t have to be a full work out, especially since we are mostly at home, but a short walk or dance around the living room will have a great effect if done regularly! Dance it out!

Find your Flow

If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called “flow.” Many kinds of activities, such as sports, playing an instrument, teaching, or a shared learning experience, can produce the experience of flow.  It can be hard to balance a hobby when working from home but putting aside even 10 minutes a day for yourself to do something you enjoy can allow you to get a bit more in tune with your ‘flow’.
All of these little habits can contribute positively to our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing as well as modelling these behaviours of looking after ourselves for our little ones. It’s easy to forget about yourself when so many people are having difficulties but remember to take care of yourself too!

Did you know…

That what is evident from neuroscience is that ‘normal’ brain development in early childhood is dependent upon environmental input and, for parents and carers, this means warm and loving, appropriate interaction with children who are living in a safe context, in which they are nourished and nurtured and allowed opportunities to explore.
So now that we are caring for ourselves… how can we care for our children?
Young children need to feel safe and secure; we can facilitate this in many ways:
  • considering the possible threats for each child and minimising these threats as far as possible.
  • ensuring that the child feels safe both physically and emotionally.
  • providing children with territorial space, for example, their own sleep mat, peg.
  • helping them feel that they belong by having routines and rituals, for example, welcome and departure songs and greetings.
We can also help support our children when they are dealing with difficult feelings by:
  • helping children to label and recognise their feelings.
  • helping children to learn strategies to calm down, for example, simple relaxation.
  • helping children to cope with their fears and anxieties.
Appropriate reassuring hugs and cuddles are also an essential part of working with young children. It is important to consider your own and colleagues’ understanding of this, particularly in relation to the Welfare Requirement – Safeguarding and Promoting children’s welfare.
There are so many ways to support the children we care for, but we must also remember to check in with ourselves. Do something that makes you happy today!
Don’t forget you can share your thoughts on happiness with us on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!
January 5, 2021

Art and Wonder

“Art is in the eye of the beholder and everyone will have their own interpretation” 
I often wonder about art, I sometimes say, “I don’t get it”. Why do people find beauty in such different things? I consider art to be something that has been created with imagination and skill but has emotions from the creator woven into it. 
Is art used to express ideas and feelings or to evoke them, or both? 
I recently made the decision to try to shop in small, local businesses since I would love to take every opportunity to support my fellow creatives. I also understand the impact the last year has had on small businesses, being part of one myself. Since Christmas was around the corner, I ventured out to find some quiet places to shop. This brought me to a little gallery featuring some amazing local artists. It was here that I stumbled upon the ‘Duchess’ print that I purchased.
The Duchess is a perfect example of a work of art that has inspired wonder in me! To say I had an immediate emotional response is quite an understatement. She made me smile and almost cry at the same time. She was looking at me, I could almost hear her say something, she had to come home with me! I loved the style, the darkness and the textures. 
I also enjoyed the reference made in the piece to Scottish culture, bringing a humor and relevance to the work that I felt connected to. To explain a little further, in Glasgow, we have a statue beside the museum of modern art of the Duke of Wellington. There are few more iconic images of Glasgow than that of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, with a bright orange cone perched neatly on his head. 
According to Raymond Hackland, the cone represents an important part of the city’s identity – Glasgow’s unique sense of humour. There was even a replica of the statue that appeared in the opening ceremony of Glasgow’s 2014 commonwealth ceremony, that’s how dear the ‘cone heid’ is to us. 
And then… the lovely man who runs the shop told me the story of the artist!  You can find his work and story here if you’d like to know more. The Duchess is now hanging on my bedroom wall and makes me smile and warms my heart, a great example of the wonder that art can bring to our lives!
Some questions this brings to mind about art and our children… What art are we exposing our children to?
Do the dances we create together, the imaginative voices we hear in role play or the way we use materials with the children to sculpt and manipulate into wonderful models and responses evoke emotions and feelings?  
Do we just offer artistic playful interactions because we are expected to or do we want to introduce beauty, wonder and the imagination to our children’s days? 
Which of your children will create beautiful music, find new ways to express their ideas and emotions or design a futuristic but nostalgic building? Will they do this because of a little piece of you? 
Don’t forget you can share your ideas about art and wonder with us on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!
If this is what we aspire to have, a child centered pedagogy, our focus is then on interactions, sensitive Interactions. Encouraging every child’s needs, interests, opinions and contributions to be valued and accepted and nurtured.
We should set up flexible and organic experiences that capture our children’s attention, that provoke their thinking and invite them to develop and learn where they are at. Our experiences should have familiarity but also be enriched. Add some aromas to your sand, place bars of soap in the water so they go all sludgy and slimy and the children can make the dinosaurs create footprints or use cars to have tyre tracks appear. Don’t bore them with the same old same old!

Pic: Tom Finnie (19.7.2019)
Alice Sharp working with staff and children at Indigo Childcare, Dunagoil Road, Glasgow.

Our wonderful array of experiences should be provided to give breadth and depth of thinking, offer choice and decisions to be made, problems to be solved or risks to be taken in a variety of spaces and places.
Play that enriches our children’s connections to each other allows us to observe, capture, interpret, and document their development and thoughts. Listen and watch for their responses, how they use their actions, control their emotions and express themselves in sharing words.

Pic: Tom Finnie (28.3.2018)
Alice Sharp, Managing Director of Experiential Play, with children at the Sighthill Nursery, Fountainwell Drive, in Glasgow.

We all know that the best play, the play where children just wallow in it, is mostly about their responses, them shaping and leading each other and manipulating the resources without any interference from us. However, balance and blending with responsive and intentional plans to facilitate, scaffold, enable and inspire is our responsibility too.

Pic: Tom Finnie (28.3.2018)
Alice Sharp, Managing Director of Experiential Play, with children at the Sighthill Nursery, Fountainwell Drive, in Glasgow.

Sit back a while and watch, listen and hear your children. Are they connected to each other? Are they listening to their friends, allowing all the voices to be heard? Do they encourage one another, share, take turns? Do they extend and negotiate? Are they having fun? Do you hear laughter? Are they up to nonsense and mischief? Never forget that’s the job of every child, to be mischief makers, to push boundaries and become themselves.
Don’t forget you can share your ideas with us on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!